Kw’amkw’um su-li : Strong Spirit
The work:
The Story:
In the fall I was thrilled to be invited, along with 50 other international calligraphers, to submit work to The Contemporary Museum of Calligraphy on the theme "Thoughts of Homeland."
This led to much consideration of what Canada and being Canadian meant to me. My meditations took me in two directions: first, I realized that I love the multicultural aspect of urban Canada, and I explored that in another work.
But I also wanted to do a work reflective of the place I live and love, Vancouver Island. In thinking of this place, my mind went naturally to the First People of Canada, and particularly to those of the Cowichan Valley. I loved the idea of working with wood, and some beautiful cuts of local cedar were made available to me. However, because of timing, I needed fully dried wood, and eventually ended up sourcing an offcut from liveedgedesign. This beautiful piece of kiln-dried maple was to become my lettering surface.
The grain was intimidating in its natural beauty.
The challenge would be to add words that enhanced rather than detracted from it. I spent days working with words and doing layouts on clear acetate placed over the wood. Nothing felt right.
At that point, a friend suggested I sit with a First Nations Elder.
I jumped at the opportunity.
Here, at the edge of Kulleet Bay on Vancouver Island, I sat with Elder Willie Seymour and listened to his story. With dignity, grace and good humour, he told a story of a youth spent fishing and hunting along this shoreline – and of the difficult transition he went through as traditional culture was interrupted and Euro-Canadian culture grew to dominate the region.

It was a very special afternoon. We sat for four hours as otters played on the rocks and Willie spoke and sang several songs.
It was an afternoon I will always remember. He spoke of the importance of retaining the local language (Hul'q'umi'num') and gave me a dictionary. I asked if I could use words from this dictionary for my art, and he gave his permission.
Back at home I sat with the wood and the dictionary, Willie's story in my mind. The words "Strong Spirit" seemed to exemplify the strength of spirit required to live through such upheaval and maintain the good nature that Willie displayed. 
I had been trying to work with the wood horizontally, with words running along the grain. Finally, it became clear that this piece was a TREE; it wanted to stand upright, to be a totem. I rotated the layout and stacked the words. That was it!
Still, I hesitated to put pen to wood. Just as I was mustering the courage to do so, Willie called me, wondering how the project was going. I told him I was nervous about writing on the wood. 

“Don't be nervous,” he said, “just work with good spirit.”
So with candles lit and Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble playing in the background, I forged ahead. 
After experimenting with many styles of text, I came back to a blackletter variant and tried to give it a feeling that reflected and honoured the text. I also made a cedar brush, (as I was taught by Lorne Loomer) to sketch in the tree at the base of the work.

This piece is now in Moscow, to be a part of the The International Exhibition of Calligraphy 2015.
Dedicated to The Cowichan Tribes and the memory and strong spirit of Willie Seymour.

Special thanks to Willie Seymour, Patricia Dawn and Mandy Na'zinek Jimmie. 

With help from:

More works from this exhibition can be viewed here.
Kw’amkw’um su-li : Strong Spirit

Kw’amkw’um su-li : Strong Spirit

Kw'amkw'um su-li means "strong spirit" in the Hul'q'umi'num' language spoken by First Nations people of Vancouver Island from Malahat north to Na Read more
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Attribution, Non-commercial

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